Pete Buttigieg Urges Civility as Passengers Confront Flight Attendants Over Mask Rules

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg urged civility and defended mask mandates Sunday on ABC's This Week.

Buttigieg confirmed that the Transportation Security Administration still requires wearing a mask on all commercial flights, even if you are fully vaccinated.

Buttigieg told host Martha Raddatz, "Some of the differences have to do with the physical space, some of them have to do with it being a workplace wherein some of these transit and travel situations, people don't have a choice."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced on May 13 that, if fully vaccinated, people do not need to wear masks indoors unless businesses ask otherwise. However, federal rules require masks be worn on air, rail and bus transportation.

Some health experts say being on a plane is really no different than sitting in a restaurant or going to the gym, in terms of the health guidelines, according to The Hill. Buttigieg told Raddatz that the decision is really "a matter of safety but it's also a matter of respect" and that those decisions would continue to be guided by health experts.

He added that the transportation system still has a long journey ahead in order to return to "pre-pandemic" regulations.

"As people return, we are coming out of one of the biggest shocks—perhaps the biggest shock—that the American transportation system has ever seen in terms of demands, schedules, all of these things changing, and so the system is getting back into gear," Buttigieg said.

Meanwhile airlines have seen an increase in onboard assaults and conflicts, many centered around masks. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recently reported at least 1,300 incidents of unruly passengers since February.

On May 23, a fight broke out on a Southwest Airlines flight over masks, resulting in a passenger knocking two of a flight attendant's teeth out.

Buttigieg urged travelers to be civil and remember that transportation workers have been among the essential workers who faced the pandemic head-on. He said to remember that "they are here for your safety."

"Remember what they have been through, what they have been doing to keep you safe, and make sure to show some appreciation and respect to everybody from a bus driver, operator to a flight attendant to a captain," he said Sunday.

There have been a number of incidents over the course of the pandemic involving airline passengers refusing to wear masks.

"We can say with confidence that the number of reports we've received during the past several months are significantly higher than the numbers we've seen in the past," the FAA told Newsweek in an email Sunday.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki Holds
Pete Buttigieg urged civility Sunday amid increasing instances of unruly passengers confronting flight attendants. Here the U.S. the transportation secretary speaks to reporters on May 12 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)